I started Fiction Friday two years ago as a way for parents, teachers, and children's book lovers to share some of the great books they had read recently. I always start my summer off with a list of 18 books. They are books selected as 4th grade Battle Books for the upcoming school year. By the end of the summer, my amazon wishlist has grown even longer and I have so many new books to inspire my students. I LOVE this linky and hope you will join in with your comments, your book suggestions, and maybe even link up with a blog post. Happy reading!!
To kick of this summer off, I read two books I'm sure you have heard about because they have won about a zillion awards. Off we go on our summer reading adventure...
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
by Kate DiCamillo
I'm just going to come out and say it...Kate DiCamillo is my favorite children's book author. She tops the list. With previous wonders like Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tiger Rising, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, she has worked her way to my #1 spot and Flora & Ulysses does not disappoint! No surprise here that it won the 2014 Newbery Medal.
Flora & Ulysses is the story of an unlikely friendship between Flora, a self-proclaimed cynic and comic book aficionado, and Ulysses, an everyday squirrel who gets sucked up by a vacuum and develops super powers. The book continues many of DiCamillo's favorite themes of friendship, family, and love. As always, she writes with beautiful prose and sophisticated language. You may need a dictionary near by to check on a few of those words like malfeasance, meaning wrong doing especially by a public official.
It reads aloud beautifully. The dialogue jumps off the page and the text is elegantly written to tell a seemly simply story that is really several stories woven together. The novel also includes chapters that are pages out of a beautifully illustrated comic book.
I enjoyed every moment of this book. In my opinion, Kate has hit another one out of the park. I fell in love with the characters, loved Flora's voice throughout the story, and genuinely enjoyed this unique tale of a girl and squirrel who had very illuminated adventures. I would recommend this book as a read aloud grades 3-5 and to any Kate DiCamillo fan. I plan on reading it aloud to my 4th graders this upcoming year.
One Crazy Summer
by Rita Williams-Garcia
Naturally, the first thing you have to notice about the cover of this book is ALL of the awards. Holy Smokes! One Crazy Summer was a Newbery Honor, National Book Award Finalist, winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for historical fiction, and the winner of the Coretta Scott King Award.
One Crazy Summer takes place in 1968 after the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. The story follows three girls, who fly to Oakland from New York to spend a month with their mother who abandoned them many years before. When they arrive, they find out their mother, Cecile, is more than a bit eccentric. In there words...she's crazy and shows little to no maternal anything towards the three girls. While trying to navigate the unclear waters of living with Cecile, the girls find themselves in the heart of the Oakland Black Panther movement and are surprised by the what they learn about themselves, their mother, and Black Power.
Now, please don't throw virtual tomatoes at me, but...I wasn't wowed by this book. Maybe I had such high expectations with all of those medals. I thought I would be captivated and sucked into the 1968 Black Panther Movement. However, if I'm honest, it was tough to get through. It was extremely well written. No qualms there. It just never hooked me. I'd finish a chapter and was easily able to put the book down. For 215 pages, it took me several days to get through it. I will say, that I enjoyed the last 30 pages tremendously. It ended well. It was real and honest and heartwarming.
For others that have read it, what did you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts. I wonder if it one of those books that you have to reread. I know members of award committees reread books over and over again. Maybe the more times you read it, the more you understand and appreciate it. As I said, it was extremely well written.
This may be a tough sell for my 4th graders next year, but they always surprise me. Maybe it will be their favorite. I would say it is more of 5th/6th grade read and would accompany a unit on the Civil Rights Movement beautifully.
And so... the first Fiction Friday of 2014 has begun! I look forward to reading your comments, thoughts, and hearing about more books. Link up and share your new reads. Picture books, chapter books, non-fiction books, we love it all! Let's celebrate Children's Literature together. If you link up, please grab the Fiction Friday button and include a link back to me.
Thanks and Happy Reading!!